Slow Stitching

What does Slow Stitching mean to you....?  

Maybe I should explain what it means to me. In the early 1980's an Italian named Carlo Petrini was angry that a MacDonald's was opening in Rome. He took his anger and poured it into a manifesto in direct reaction to the 'fast food' that had arrived on his doorstep, bringing the idea of Slow Food into our common culture.  If you have never heard of Carlo Petrini or Slow Food, I recommend you start with the Slow Food website.  It will give you a good idea of what the concept encompasses.  

Before I opened A Gathering of Stitches I worked with my husband, Don, to create a book store called Rabelais, a premier purveyor of fine books on food & drink. We spent many years reading and talking about Slow Food and it's meaning, and it's implications. We did our best to live a 'slow' life, as much as possible for small business owners, centering most of our life around food and meals, both intellectually and physically.  We did pretty well at it....

The Slow Food concept has been a bit eclipsed by the modern 'Organic' movement, and is lost in the crowd of foodies clamoring for attention and market share.  At least that is my opinion. One crucial element of Slow Food, to my mind, was the encouragement to take time for meals, for breaking bread, with friends, with family, with loved ones. To slow down and appreciate the food you eat. To offer thanks to those who grew it, raised it, foraged it, and generally caused it to be on your plate. To pause in your day to celebrate the act of feeding our souls and our bellies. I always loved that idea.  There is an awful lot of noise around sustainability, and feeding the world, and responsibility, all of which are important. What I took from all this, however, was more of the personal view. I would spend long days talking to customers at Rabelais about the pleasure of sitting at the table with good friends eating a meal that we had prepared with intention, and sharing it, appreciating it, together.  Feeding myself is more than just fuel for the journey of life, it is part of the journey. Having always had craft in my life, I would often draw parallels between crafting a meal and knitting a sweater. I think this is part of the reason why the interest in food and cooking have had such a resurgence recently.  Cooking connects us to tradition, to history, to craft, to our family(or not), and to a tangible and concrete present that is the diametric opposite of the ephemeral nature of the internet. So much of our day is spent looking at a screen and interacting with ideas, but not things.  It is very satisfying to use your hands to take raw ingredients from their original form to a meal using craft, at the end of the day. Just the way it soothes the soul to knit on a project after a day of email wrangling.

Now that I am here at A Gathering of Stitches I find myself expounding on the same themes, just this time in a different medium. I still love cooking, although Don has been doing a bit more of it than I have lately. And when something at work, even something tactile like a quilt, is bothering me, sometimes there is nothing like making dinner to clear my head and let me refresh my approach. My fodder is still the internet, the computers and phones in our life, and they way of disconnecting us from the present, the right-in-front-of-you that can make life sooooo interesting.

 This upcoming Slow Stitching Retreat has a special place in my heart because I am projecting all my joy in the micro, the tactile, the intimate experience of stitching, onto this long weekend in Washington Maine this August. I have posted short conversations with both Chawne and Carolyn here in this forum about what they think Slow Stitching is. You can scroll back if you haven't read those. We all share an interest is craft, in mindfulness, in connecting with our making, that is a theme in our lives.

In my mind's eye this long weekend is full of the lush, yet cool, woods of Maine as the backdrop for an enthusiastic group of stitchers sharing their knowledge, their ideas, and their practice. As I drove home tonight with the windows open, I could just feel how good the air smells up here in the summer. I have more work to do before we land at Medomak Retreat Center, but I keep tripping along to the cabins, the warm sun, the murmurs and exclamations of stitch discovery, the meals of fresh local food shared, and celebrated, in good company that this retreat promises. I very purposefully kept it small, thirty people max, in order that we could all dive deeply into our stitching practice with as much attention and instruction as we wanted, or needed.  That number gives the group dynamic room for exploration without feeling overwhelmed, yet also the opportunity to speak with everyone within a four day period. Each morning will involve learning from a different teacher.  Carolyn will be teaching her Park project and Chawne will be teaching Stitching Small.  In case you hadn't figured it out, this is the first time Chawne is teaching quilting. For all of us who love her work, and her, this is a momentous occasion.  Rebecca Ringquist is unable to join us, so I am stepping in to offer my Boro and Visible Mending techniques. Every afternoon will be free-skate, as my Father says.  Meaning you can choose whether you want to go back to your morning teacher after lunch and continue to work on what they taught you, or you can go sit under a tree and read a book (or stitch), or you can go for a walk or a swim, you can take a nap, you can talk with your new best friend, you can daydream.... For these days you spend with us, your time is your own. If you can stand it, you might want to leave your phone in your cabin.  Try listening to the birds tweets.... (ugh, sorry, couldn't resist)   I have a feeling this is going to be a pretty magical weekend.  Who's in?

While I was writing this post initially, I lost a huge chunk of writing in that way that the interwebs can mess with you, by just dropping the connection when it is most inopportune. I said many curse words, as I was still at work with an excited group of machine knitters zooming along, who will attest to the noise. There is nothing quite so frustrating as losing words that you thought you put down so well.  But I realized they were well and truly gone, so I got myself home, and made a big huge bowl of my current obsession- kale salad with toasted pepitas, grated hard Italian cheese, and a garlicky mustard anchovy lemon vinaigrette. Just making myself that tasty dinner calmed my nervous system down and made it possible for me to come back to this forum and re-write this post.  The power of Making.....
Edited to add: I realize I have not touched on the issue, so much in our consciousnesses, of Slow Fashion here. It actually deserves it’s own post, and all sorts of attention. You can get a rudimentary definition of the concept by googling it. I urge you to familiarize yourself with this important issue.....